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At home on Election Day

Published October 2, 2011 11:34 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

And I thought Congress was bad. Reading about the redistricting debacle currently coming to a head in Utah makes me dizzy.

I am a college student at the University of Utah, writing a paper on redistricting in Utah. I cannot help but laugh at the painfully ham-handed efforts of the Republican leadership of the Legislature to dilute the strength of the one Democratic stronghold — Salt Lake City.

Let's call it what it is — gerrymandering — and spare me the agony of having to read one more article quoting Senate President Michael Waddoups, committee chairman Rep. Kenneth Sumsion and the other Republican members of the Redistricting Committee, all pretending to have the best interests of Utah citizens in mind.

No wonder kids my age have absolutely no interest in voting anymore. As The Wall Street Journal said in its timely and scathing review of gerrymandering (spotlighting Utah) in 2001, "What's the point in voting if you know the outcome in advance?"

Think of it this way: What if all of a sudden the PAC-12 started giving certain teams special privileges? Let's say visiting teams could only play seven players at a time and weren't allowed to advance past the 20 yard line? How many people would buy tickets to the game or tune in on TV?

The same is true of Utah and voting, but it's even more disturbing when one considers our rich voting past. Utah used to be one of the highest in voter participation but now is in a race to the bottom, with numbers declining every voting cycle.

With a closed primary system, coupled with blatant gerrymandering, none of this is surprising. In talking with my peers, the response is always, resoundingly, the same: "Why should I care? It doesn't matter anyway."

Is this the impression that Utah legislators really want to give young voters? If so, they're doing a bang-up job of it.

Before the final redistricting map was released Tuesday, I held onto a sliver of hope that the Republican leadership would consider what is best for Utah, not their own special interests. Unfortunately, based on what happened ("Favored redistricting map splits Salt Lake County three ways," Tribune, Sept. 27), it doesn't appear the voices of their constituents made much difference.

Article after article quoted Utahns asking for the same thing — fair representation. Today, it is clear that their cries fell on deaf Republican ears.

It takes courage to stand up to special interests and incumbent candidates — and courage is a quality seriously lacking in this redistricting plan and in Utah's Republican leadership as a whole. To say I'm disappointed would be a gross understatement.

Utah's Democratic Party chairman, Jim Dabakis, summed it up well on Facebook after the map was released: "Before our very eyes, Republican Party bosses are drawing ridiculous districts to protect their incumbents, putting petty political interests ahead of Utah citizens and presenting terribly flawed maps that will hurt all Utahns for the next 10 years."


Hannah Owen is a senior at the University of Utah in political science and international studies.






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